The evolutionarily conserved ESRE stress response network is activated by ROS and mitochondrial damage
Tjahjono, Elissa; McAnena, Aidan P.; Kirienko, Natalia V.
Background: Mitochondrial dysfunction causes or contributes to a wide variety of pathologies, including neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, metabolic diseases, and aging. Cells actively surveil a number of mitochondrial readouts to ensure that cellular homeostasis is maintained. Results: In this article, we characterize the role of the ethanol and stress response element (ESRE) pathway in mitochondrial surveillance and show that it is robustly activated when the concentration of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the cell increases. While experiments were mostly performed in Caenorhabditis elegans, we observed similar gene activation profile in human cell lines. The linear relationship between ROS and ESRE activation differentiates ESRE from known mitochondrial surveillance pathways, such as the mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt), which monitor mitochondrial protein import. The ability of the ESRE network to be activated by increased ROS allows the cell to respond to oxidative and reductive stresses. The ESRE network works in tandem with other mitochondrial surveillance mechanisms as well, in a fashion that suggests a partially redundant hierarchy. For example, mutation of the UPRmt pathway results in earlier and more robust activation of the ESRE pathway. Interestingly, full expression of ATFS-1, a key transcription factor for the UPRmt, requires the presence of an ESRE motif in its promoter region. Conclusion: The ESRE pathway responds to mitochondrial damage by monitoring ROS levels. This response is conserved in humans. The ESRE pathway is activated earlier when other mitochondrial surveillance pathways are unavailable during mitochondrial crises, potentially to mitigate stress and restore health. However, the exact mechanisms of pathway activation and crosstalk remain to be elucidated. Ultimately, a better understanding of this network, and its role in the constellation of mitochondrial and cellular stress networks, will improve healthspan